Advocate's Queen on the NYC Theater Scene
BY Brandon Voss
June 14 2009 11:00 PM ET
I would've slapped myself silly had I skipped the Pearl Theatre Company's intoxicating revival of Tennessee Williams's rarely produced Vieux Carré , which shuttered June 14 at Theater 80. Set in a dilapidated French Quarter boarding house, it's his most autobiographical and gayest work. In one early scene, a tubercular old lecher named Nightingale encourages our unnamed protagonist, a writer, to lay back and receive pleasure while he fantasizes about a previous fling. Then there's the Stanley Kowalskian neighbor who wouldn't dare mess around with a man -- for less than $100, that is. And don't forget the downstairs gay tenant who drives the landlady batty by hosting loud gay orgies. (Where are those Golden Girls when you need 'em?) Williams began writing Vieux Carré in 1939 when he first moved to New Orleans and resided at 722 Toulouse Street, but it didn't bow on Broadway until 1977 (closing after only five performances); therefore, it's unique as an "early" and a "late" play, reflective of both an emerging young artist and a seasoned playwright nearing the end of his illustrious career.
Another prolific gay playwright, Craig Lucas, shook up the Public Theater with The Singing Forest , a dense and daring work about dark family secrets that closed on May 17. With three long acts shifting between New York in 2000 and WWII-era Europe (and most actors double-cast), it was a fascinating hot mess that explored Freudian "daddy" issues and the persecution of homosexuals during the Holocaust. Olympia Dukakis starred as Loë, an alcoholic phone-sex operator, and Q ueer As Folk' s Randy Harrison appeared as a barista linked to two horny male psychiatrists. Taking Woodstock' s Jonathan Groff (who portrayed a gay soldier in Lucas's Prayer for my Enemy ) played Loë's gay brother and a straight guy hired to impersonate Loë's wealthy gay grandson to find him an analyst. Not following? Focus on this: Those who missed Groff's bare bottom in Spring Awakening could see it (and more) here in a totally unnecessary steam room scene. Yet the moment forever etched in my brain is the one where Dukakis (a woman in her late-70s, mind you) got leisurely "raped" from behind by Harrison as a Nazi officer.
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